John Canady took his 8-year-old daughter Kamri to Highland Park Wednesday to hang out and play on the swings. Then they noticed a colorful shed near the tennis courts and decided to head over to check it out.
Inside they found basketballs, Frisbees, tennis rackets and craft supplies, as well as three friendly people who let them work on a craft — painting a ceramic cat.
What John and Kamri accidentally stumbled across Wednesday is what one person called “the best kept secret in Kokomo.”
The secret? It’s the annual Recreation Adventure Program sponsored by the city’s parks and rec department.
Every weekday from now until July 26, kids of all ages can head to five different city parks from 1 to 5 p.m. to do crafts, borrow sports equipment, play games and hang out in a safe environment with park supervisors.
Although the program might be a secret to some people, it’s actually been around for decades.
“This has been going on here forever,” said Emma Glover, who was working as one of the program leaders in Highland Park on Wednesday. “My mom’s 40, and she said she did this when she was a kid. It’s been around awhile.”
And it’s no secret to the more than 3,000 kids who headed to city parks last year to participate in what’s become one of the most popular programs in the parks department.
It was secret for John Canady, however, and it’s one he said he’s glad he found out about.
He said Kamri has autism, and the program is a great way for her to learn new things and enjoy the outdoors.
“This is great for her and her motor skills,” he said. “It’s great for every kid, really, but especially Kamri.”
John said he plans to take his daughter to one of the five park locations at least a couple times a week now.
Recreation manager Torrey Roe said the program is organized a little differently this year. He said there used to be both a morning and an afternoon session at five set parks, but now there is just an afternoon session, with more locations.
The free program is located daily at Highland Park, Bon Air Park, Lafayette Park School and Mohr Park. The parks department cut out Foster Park this year due to dwindling attendance.
Five other parks host the program on a rotating weekly schedule.
“We didn’t want to isolate the program to just certain parts of the city,” Roe said. “The new setup allows us to hit each and every corner of Kokomo, and everywhere in between.”
Other highlights of the program include weekly “water sprays,” where the Kokomo Fire Department provides water activities and a large Slip and Slide.
Then there’s the annual Craft Fest on June 26 in Highland Park, where kids can paint and build all kinds of things and make tie-dyed shirts.
“Some of these kids aren’t able to do stuff like this at home, so it’s neat getting them into different things,” Glover said. “It’s cool. All the kids have a great time.”
Park officials encourage parents to participate in the program with their children, noting program leaders aren’t responsible for the kids.
“We’re not really in charge of watching over the kids, but we’ll keep an eye on them and make sure they’re not running off and they’re staying safe,” Glover said.
She noted parents can fill out information cards with phone numbers, addresses and allergy information to keep on file with the program in case of an emergency.
Although it was his first time participating in Recreation Adventure, John Canady said he was impressed with the program and that it’s a great asset to the city.
“The interaction the staff had with the kids was awesome,” he said. “These are people who seem to truly love children and working with kids. You can’t beat this.”
Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, or at email@example.com.
Recreation Adventure Program When: Noon to 5 p.m. every weekday now through July 26 Locations: Every weekday at: Highland Park, 900 W. Defenbaugh St. Bon Air Park, 2500 N. Purdum St. Mohr Park, 2302 Saratoga Ave. Lafayette Park School, 919 N. Korby St. Rotating Parks: Mondays - Huston Park, 2800 N. Webster St. Tuesdays - Somers Park, 1000 E. Jefferson St. Wednesdays - Gateway Park, 601 E. Rickets St. Thursdays - Pine Valley Apartments, 100 W. County Road 300 South Fridays - Studebaker Park, 1030 N. Purdum St. Cost: Free, but crafts cost $1 Water Sprays Bon Air Park - June 12 Highland Park - July 10 Mohr Park - June 18 Studebaker Park - July 12 Pine Valley Apartments - June 20 Foster Park - July 17 Lafayette Park School - June 27 Huston Park - July 22 Somers Park - July 2 Gateway Park - July 24 All water sprays will be from 1 to 3 p.m. Spray may be canceled due to weather or the availability of the Kokomo Fire Department.